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online diary: winter in a new phase of life

As February turns to March, it's time to take my assorted writings and sum up the season. This blog is a collection of random times I sat down to write this winter. If I had to give it a theme? Reflective hibernation.


a blond girl wearing grey headphones paints a half finished canvas

 

Finding rhythm in a new phase of life

Last Fall, I wondered what I would get up to once I finished my courses. I finished my coursework in December, and had no plans for the future. I knew I would still have the part time job I love, but I worried I would be bored. I think this stemmed from watching too much Boy Meets World as a tween.


My favourite character in Boy Meets World was Eric Matthews, the handsome older brother of the main character, Cory. Eric is adorable and a bit of an airhead. The kind of guy who refers to himself as Kyle in his internal dialogue. Why Kyle? He does not say.


As a tween, I related more to Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and the other characters closer to my age. But as a soon-to-be university graduate, I see more of myself in Eric than I ever imagined.




In one episode, Eric is a year out of high school and facing an identity crisis. He did poorly on his SATs, and couldn't get into college with the rest of his friends. He goes on a summer road trip across the United States with Cory, and at the end of their trip, Eric decides he's not going home. He believes there's nothing waiting for him there - no chance to go to college, no future in his eyes.


His father is able to convince him not to run away and live on the road, but Eric comes home to what he sees as a lack of possibilities. He ends up sitting at home all day in his bathrobe, watching TV and eating bon bons (is this some sort of American cereal? I thought bon bons were candy but Eric always seemed to be eating cereal).


In December, when I wondered what life would look like for me out of school, I imagined myself sitting on the couch in my bathrobe like Eric; wasting away.


While I'm not as busy as when I was a student, I'm certainly not bored. I got a second part time job, and fell into a daily rhythm of working, teaching dance, dancing, etc.


January and February ended up flying by. I made my coffee and answered my emails, did boring adult things like buying health insurance since I don't have a regular human job. I was able to pour myself into dance class with more dedication than my years as student. I filled any spare time with hobbies and worried that I didn't have enough time for my hobbies.


a desk is seen from above with a person typing on a laptop

Even without plans for grad school and with a strong aversion to getting a 9-5 job, I didn't become listless like Eric. Time still passed and I kept up as best I could. Now I get to worry about what I'll do in September! Yay.


 

Recipe for orange water and feeling something in late January


  1. Put some ice in a glass. I don't usually use ice in my water so this is in the spirit of mixing things up.

  2. Cut an orange in half.

  3. Squeeze the juice of half the orange into the glass.

  4. Rip the juiced orange open with your hands. Turn it inside out and let the juice run down to your wrists.

  5. Rip into the flesh of the orange and tear it apart with your teeth like an animal.

  6. Once you've cleaned it to the rind, wash your hands immediately. Wash your face - hopefully you've eaten violently enough to warrant this step.

  7. Add a splash of lime juice.

  8. Fill the rest of the way with water

For optimal results, carry out steps 4 and 5 in the shower.


 

100 ways to ruin an oil painting

In September of last year, one of my closest friends got married. I knew I wanted to do something special, so I decided to finally dive into something I've been intrigued by for years: oil painting.


I've always loved painting with acrylics and watercolours, so oils were next.


A month before the wedding, I started painting a scene of my friend and her fiancé from their trip to New Zealand. I watched Youtube videos to get to know my various new solvents and chemicals, and got to work.


a half finished painting of a mountain landscape
a week into painting

I found oils much more enjoyable to work with than acrylics. Even without any formal training, the paint was much easier to use.


I managed to finish the painting a week before the wedding, and I knew that I wouldn't have enough time to varnish it. I advised the happy couple that I did not, in fact, forget a gift for them, but they would have to wait an undetermined amount of time before I could give it to them.


Well, 6 months passed of me waiting for this thing to dry and being too lazy to learn how to varnish it. I knew from horror stories that varnishing is usually the step when oil paintings get messed up, so I was intimidated to try.


A few weeks ago, I finally decided that enough was enough: I needed to varnish this thing and get it out of my sight. I was proud of my work, but staring at it for 6 months made me hate it.


I watched a few more youtube videos, each one containing a worrying number of warnings for mistakes you can make that cause irreversible damage to your painting. How is it that we haven't come up with fool proof techniques after hundred of years of using this form? I think I'm only saying this because I haven't gone to art school.


I decided to show my friends their painting before it had to spend another few weeks drying, and their positive reactions to it reminded me why I started it in the first place. The spirit of love and art, and all that.


Anyway, after oiling out my piece (whatever that means), she's ready to varnish and will hopefully be in the hands of my friends before they reach their 1 year anniversary!


A painting of a mountain scene with two figures in the foreground sits on an easel
the finished piece

 

Winter reading and viewing highlights


Books

I've been in a bit of a weird half reading slump for like the past year. In January I read 2 books and one of them was in one night. I was staying the night in a friend's room while she was away, and I picked up a book on her desk as I was going to bed around 11pm. I liked it after reading a few pages. So I sat there until 2am and read the whole thing.


The next book I read took me three weeks. It doesn't even seem to be about the genre or quality of the books.


My most recommended read from this winter is Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake. It's all about fungi and basically blew my friggin mind.


the book Entangled Life sits on a person's lap, and a brown dog rests their head on the person's knee
best reading buddy


Re-entering (and also re-exiting) my Sarah J Maas era

Those who know my account from my bookstagram days already know that I love Sarah J Maas books. During the pandemic, they were my entire life. I think I've read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series 5 times.


I unexpectedly fell off the train in February 2022 with the release of House of Sky and Breath, the second in her Crescent City series. I counted down to the release, got collectors editions, and then I didn't finish it. I got two thirds of the way through it, and then forgot about it for almost two years.


This was shocking to me - I really enjoyed book one in that series and wanted to love book two. For the first time ever, I couldn't get past the dense world-building. Hovering around 800 pages, it was just too much for me at that time.


I finally went back to it in January, and HOLY SHIT was it good!


I read my first Sarah J Maas book about 5 years ago, and have reread most of her 15 thick high-fantasy books at least once - so while I obviously enjoy her stories - but it's not often that I get the full experience.


Sarah J Maas books get a lot of flack online for their long and complex world building. The Crescent City series in particular, more than A Court of Thorns and Roses or Throne of Glass, has SO MANY characters, layered relationships, and political nuances to wrap your mind around.


But best believe: that world building is not pointless. Miss Sarah weaves worlds that pull you in and then she pulls the rug out from under you. Several times in the last 100 pages of Sky and Breath did I have to throw the book down and whisper scream at my bedroom ceiling. There were screams of vindication when a prediction I made hundreds of pages earlier was realised, and there were screams of silent agony when a twist I wasn't expecting wrenched my heart out.


If you've never read a Sarah J. Maas book before and you're looking to sign up for months of emotions, I highly recommend.


Anyway, I LOVED book two and lucky for me, by the time I finished it, book three was only a few weeks away from publication. I kept myself occupied by listening to the audio books of A Court of Thorns and Roses (I basically have the whole thing memorised, I love it so much).


I read House of Flame and Shadow eagerly when it came out, and I'm sad to report that it just wasn't as good. I still liked it - there were still lots of twists and steamy romances and happy moments, but it just didn't hit the same.


Movies + shows

I watched a few movies and shows - here are the spark notes. No spoilers.


  • Day One (Netflix) - I knew that this show was going to be brutal, and I still allowed myself to be lulled into submission and I got hurt.

  • Lord of the Rings (Prime) - I watched these twice this winter.

  • Triangle of Sadness (Prime) - For fans of White Lotus. Equally levels of comedy and physical cringes.

  • Never Have I Ever (Netflix) - Another rewatch.

  • Saltburn (Prime) - Yes I watched it and yes I'll admit to calling Jacob Elordi a babygirl.

  • The Lego Movie (Netflix) - Hear me out.


Youtube

I accidentally had a Youtube phase - here's what I liked:

  • Birds Do Not Sing in Cages - Horses. An awesome channel for anyone interested in philosophy. This one is about Thoreau and humans' relationship to technology and productivity in the modern world.

  • Amelia Dimoldenberg on Hot Ones. I loved when she told them she hates the hot sauce made by the show and that they should get a new recipe.

  • Bear and Goose at the End of Everything - exurb1a. Yet another fantastic channel for anyone interested in philosophy or just anyone looking for perspective.


 

Thoughts on hibernation

I woke up this morning thinking how winter, productivity, and reflection. I journaled a few days ago on how I see the practice of reflection being so important for my life and the choices I make.


I crave space in my life to pause and make sense of the world around me. Maybe it's the liberal arts student in me - in my program, us students always joked about how often we have to reflect on our work. Doing a project? A presentation? A paper? The final step was always writing a reflection on the experience.


When I was in the program, I was getting good and tired of all this reflecting. But now that I'm done my courses, I've noticed two consequences of these years of introspection in an academic setting:

  1. I'm actually really good at making sense of my thoughts and feelings when I'm given space to do so.

  2. I now need it to survive.


Let me expand on the latter.


I think it might actually be the reason I started this blog. This need to sort my thoughts and emotions and feelings down into words on a page or on a screen, combined with the 21st century Girl need to document everything online, equals a blog.


at a white table, there are two lattes and two croissants on plates. A person cuts into one of the croissants with a fork and knife


Where do my thoughts go if not into words? That's a very egotistical way of seeing it. But maybe true.


My journals fill faster then they ever did as a teenager and I don't even know what I'm writing about. When I don't get the chance to journal for more than a few days, I feel my thoughts piling up inside of me.


So here, I reflect on the winter months.


You know how, as a child, you thought that bears literally slept for months at a time when hibernating?



A few years ago I found out that they do in fact wake up and do stuff every now and then. And now, for the last few years, I've seen more and more about how humans kind of have to hibernate too. Not in the way that bears do (though god, sometimes I wish that were the case) but in the sense that our sleep and energy levels wax and wane with the sunlight.


Humans of eras gone by recognised this. There have long been rituals of preserving food for the winter months, piling wood for fire, resting from seasons of sowing and harvesting, and hunkering in against the cold weather.


But with the advent of things like imported food, indoor heating, and jobs that take place only within a foldable sheet of metal, the connotation of rest surrounding winter has faded.


I'm not trying to demonise these modern inventions we rely on, but rather draw attention to the fact that they've become part of capitalism's imperative that we work ceaselessly.


If you're interested in an exploration of this interaction between tech / humanity / capitalism / productivity, I once again highly recommend this video!

The idea of winter has taken on the form of a season like any other, and lost its verb sense. Winter used to be a time of rest and recovery, just as spring is a time of renewal. Now, winter is just the time of year that everyone except those who enjoy winter sports hate their lives and go about their business as usual.


I'm generalising, but you know what I'm saying.


a messy wooden desk with includes a laptop, a green waterbottle, a brown paper bag with the name "Sophia" written on it, and a red Sharpie
deskscape: valentine's day prep

Spring still urges us to reinvent ourselves for the upcoming months of sunshine, but that gets harder when you've barely taken a minute to recover during winter. Without crops to keep the vast majority of us on a cycle of sowing, growing, harvesting, and resting alongside our food source, we've fallen into working through every season.


Back to the bears hibernating thing. I've noticed that I am, in fact, hibernating. For me, hibernation isn't sleeping more than in the summer, or doing nothing and resting all the time. Rather, it's a period of relative repetitiveness. I have my little daily routines, which I complete consistently. The days blend together.


It's February 22nd right now, and I can definitely say that all of these 22 days of February have felt monotonous. In other seasons, my routines are more irregular, my evenings occupied by a different friend/walk/patio drink/sing along each night.


In summer, each day feels like a unique moment in space and time for me to command and create as I see fit. In February, each day is like the day before. I will answer emails and I will try to save money (because Summer Me is not a saver and I put her needs above my own).


Winter is a time to be gentle with yourself. Of course you don't feel like hanging out with friends and working out and cooking a gourmet meal every day. You're just a bear in her den.


We don't get frustrated with creatures other than ourselves for their need to rest. We don't try and motivate Mrs. Bear to get up in the morning and strive to catch one more fish than the day before; rather, we accept that the light is getting low again, and the time for pushing the boundaries will come later.


The inner pull to break new ground will come when there's a whole day's worth of sun in the sky and more fish in the river.


This winter has been an exercise for me in trying to be grateful for this period of rest. Maybe we can't be bears and hide away until spring, but we can be grateful and tolerant of ourselves as we get through.


Maybe you're not achieving as much as you would in other seasons. Maybe pushing yourself if out of the question, and it's all you can do to get out of bed in the morning. Particularly important when the news of the world around us often feels heavier and heavier and heavier. Take it as it comes.


I'm trying to be grateful for it all - remembering the times in the heat of summer when I'll long for rest and rainy days.


on a white bedspread, there is a laptop and a pile of multi coloured construction paper. There is also a pair of scissors and a multi coloured paper chain
a night in crafting + binging One Day

 

Upcoming cause for celebration


In recent personal news, I've been chosen as the student speaker at my program's year-end celebration of excellence dinner. I know a few of my classmates will probably read this, so thanks for voting for me. I want to write a speech that Carol (the dean of the faculty) will be reluctant to approve. I'm not sure what I mean by that yet, but get excited.


I'm really eager to write a great speech because so many events in the academic world celebrate students for their grades and achievements, but the celebration dinner is about community.


To be the one asked by my peers to reflect on behalf of us all on the year(s) gone by is an honour. To be the one asked to speak on an occasion celebrating friendship, community and our accomplishments is a real honour. I'm ready to write the last reflection of my time at RC!


I just don't want to put too much pressure on myself because at this point, it's less than 3 weeks away and I need to write something before it sneaks up on me.


5 people stand on a wooden staircase holding paper certificates
my classmates and I at the dean's list tea event in February

 

Winter listening

the albums of the season:



Heaven or Las Vegas - Cocteau Twins

the rest - boygenius

Viva La Vida - Coldplay

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony

My Head is an Animal - Of Monsters and Men

How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful - Florence + the Machine

Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons

Javelin - Sufjan Stevens

Lavender Days - Caamp


 

Onto Spring


January and February are always a bit of a blur. Like, you look back on them and wonder what you did every day. Sure, a few things stick out, but it's largely so monotonous that it all blends together.


I'm glad to have had a few good things stick out to me, and I'm eager to see what a new season will bring. First, California!!


In case you were wondering what happens to Eric in Boy Meets World, he gets off the couch, gets a job, and eventually finds the resolve to study for his SATs. When he takes them for the second time, he applies himself fully, and ends up getting a score high enough to go to college and strive for the future he thought was lost.



two people smiling and wearing sunglasses sit holding pints of beer
smiling in the winter sunlight whenever possible

 

misc. highlights

a person in a blue kilt outfit dances over a pair of swords laid on the ground
I danced in my first championship of the season! I was so nervous leading up to this but I ended up pretty proud of my dancing and my results

Two cards lay on a wooden table. One is pink with an illustration of a lily flower, and the other is orange and reads "Happy Birthday Ellie Maren"
birthday cards I made for a few February birthdays!

A bowl sits on a wooden table. In the bowl is kale, quinoa, and roasted veggies
I got super into cooking in January and ate WELL all winter. I made this kale salad with roasted veggies and tofu several times!

5 figures pose for the camera, each holding a drink and wearing a different coloured hat
me and besties at our "lesbian hat night" where we all wore awesome hats and made delicious drinks

A brown dog wearing a red coat sits in the snow
tillie loves winter so much

 

If you enjoyed reading this "diary", make sure you subscribe to my mailing list! I'm thinking that in the future, this kind of informal, category-less post will be a monthly newsletter. Thanks, friends <3







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